Subject: Writers/Editors/Illustrators/Designers/Publishers
From: "George F. Hayhoe" <gfhayhoe -at- SCESCAPE -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 14 May 1996 12:21:00 -0400

Michael Maloney's and John Posada's recent posts illustrate the two
extremes on the same pendulum's swing. Michael's point is that we should
always insist on using professional illustrators and editors (and by
implication designers and publishers) on every project. John counters
that such is almost never the case.

I agree with Michael that in the best of all possible worlds, every
project would have specialists dedicated to the tasks of writing,
editing, illustrating, designing, and desktop publishing the paper or
electronic products we produce. I also agree with John that it often
does not happen that way these days. In many cases, we're lucky to get a
colleague to give our pages a quick editing pass before the project goes
to "press."

In my 20+ years in this business--as an academic, an employee of large
corporations, and a contractor and consultant to government and
corporate entities--I have worked on only one project for which
specialists were engaged as Michael suggests. We writers did not edit,
illustrate, design, or lay out the book on which we were working; we
simply wrote. (The project in question was a proposal for a contract
worth $6 billion.) On all my other projects, I have had varying degrees
of expert assistance, ranging from none (by far the most common) to
some help with editing and major illustrations for the book. In my last
year as an employee, I had the good fortune to have access to the
services of a talented illustrator/designer whose expertise vastly
improved the projects I worked on that year.

In my current life as a consultant, I encourage my clients to engage the
services of experts whenever it is prudent to do so. It is not only
usually less expensive for me to subcontract such parts of the project
to illustrators and editors than to attempt it myself, but I'm certain
that the quality of the work is much higher as well.

However, I've noticed that my clients are far more likely to bring in
such experts for appropriate portions of the task when the publication
is intended for external audiences than when the product will be used
only by internal audiences--even when I've pointed out that
subcontracting the work is likely to be less expensive.

We need to educate our managers and clients about the advantages of
utilizing *other* experts on our publication projects. We must also
acknowledge that educating them is a slow process, especially since some
managers and clients have only recently been liberated from the notion
that technical writers are unnecessary luxuries.

--George Hayhoe (gfhayhoe -at- scescape -dot- net)

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